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Review Article

Korean J Physiol Pharmacol 2018; 22(3): 235-248

Published online May 1, 2018

Copyright © Korean J Physiol Pharmacol.

Ursolic acid in health and disease

Dae Yun Seo1, Sung Ryul Lee1,2, Jun-Won Heo3, Mi-Hyun No3, Byoung Doo Rhee1, Kyung Soo Ko1, Hyo-Bum Kwak3,*, and Jin Han1,4,*

1National Research Laboratory for Mitochondrial Signaling, Department of Physiology, BK21 Plus Team, College of Medicine, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease Center, Inje University, Busan 47392, 2Department of Convergence Biomedical Science, Inje University, Busan 47392, 3Department of Kinesiology, Inha University, Incheon 22212, 4Department of Health Science and Technology, Graduate School, Inje University, Busan 47392, Korea

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Ursolic acid (UA) is a natural triterpene compound found in various fruits and vegetables. There is a growing interest in UA because of its beneficial effects, which include anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-apoptotic, and anti-carcinogenic effects. It exerts these effects in various tissues and organs: by suppressing nuclear factor-kappa B signaling in cancer cells, improving insulin signaling in adipose tissues, reducing the expression of markers of cardiac damage in the heart, decreasing inflammation and increasing the level of anti-oxidants in the brain, reducing apoptotic signaling and the level of oxidants in the liver, and reducing atrophy and increasing the expression levels of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase and irisin in skeletal muscles. Moreover, UA can be used as an alternative medicine for the treatment and prevention of cancer, obesity/diabetes, cardiovascular disease, brain disease, liver disease, and muscle wasting (sarcopenia). In this review, we have summarized recent data on the beneficial effects and possible uses of UA in health and disease managements.

Keywords: Disease, Exercise, Health, Irisin, Ursolic acid